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fence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient, unto which they were appointed,' (that is, God having so purposely ordered the evangelical dispensation, that such persons should not approve it, or comply with it;) just it was, that they should be debarred from a knowlege of that truth which they should abuse, and detain in unrighteousness;' just it was, that they should be punished with such temptations unto doubt and error, “who would not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Indeed, more abundant light of conviction, as it would de. prive good men of much praise and reward, so it might be hurtful to many persons; who having affections indisposed to comply with truth, would outface and outbrave it, however clear and evident; "they would,' as Job speaketh, 'rebel against the light,' although shining on them with a meridian splendor; they would plunge themselves, into an inexcusable and incorrigible state of impiety, doing despite to the Spirit of grace,' and involving themselves in the 'unpardonable sin ;' as we have many instances in the evangelical history of those, who beholding unquestionable evidences of divine power attesting to our Lord's doctrine, which they could not but acknowlege, did yet oppose it, did blaspheme against it, did outrageously persecute it.
Should God, as he once did in a dreadful manner, thunder out his laws, and shake the earth with his voice,' yet many would little regard them; should God, in confirmation of his will, perform every day as many miracles, as he did once in Egypt, yet there would be Pharoahs, “hardening their hearts' against it: should God himself descend from heaven, as once be did, and converse with us, instructing us by discourse and practice, displaying among us conspicuous evidences of his power and goodness, yet “who would believe his report, to whom would the arm of the Lord be revealed ? how few cordially would embrace his doctrine, or submit to his law! As it was then, so it would be now; he would be hated, be scorned, be affronted, and abused, by persons qualified with like affections, as those were, who so then did serve him; for in all times like persons will do like things : as then only his sheep (that is, well disposed persons, like sheep, simple, harmless, and ductile) did hear his voice, and follow him ;' so others would not believe him, because they were not of his sheep,' being imbued with swinish, currish, wolvish dispositions, incapacitating them to follow his conduct: there would be persons like to those, of whom it is said, · Behold, ye scorners, and wonder, and perish : for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.'
(It is with instituted religion as it is with natural ; the works of nature are so many continual miracles of divine
and wisdom; in the common track of Providence many wonderful things do occur; yet who by them is moved to acknowlege and adore God? notwithstanding them, how many Atheists and Epicureans are there ! So will it be in regard to divine revelations, which, however clearly attested, will yet be questioned.)
Those indeed whom sufficient reasons (such as God hath dispensed to us) will not convince, on them the greatest motives would have small efficacy; so father Abraham told the rich man; • If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.'
They may pretend, if they had more light, they would be persuaded ; like those who said, 'Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe;' but it would not in effect prove so, for they would yet be devising shifts, and forging exceptions; or, however, they would oppose an impudent face, and an obstinate will against the truth.
Wherefore it was for the common good, and to Divine wisdom it appeared sufficient, that on the balance truth should much outweigh falsehood, if the scales were held in an even hand, and no prejudices were thrown in against it; that it should be conspicuous enough to eyes, which do not avert themselves from it, or wink on purpose, or be clouded with lust and passion; it was enough that infidelity is justly chargeable on men's wilful pravity; and that apópaow our éxovos, • they have not,' as our Saviour saith, “any reasonable excuse' for it.
But so much for the causes and adjuncts of faith; the effects and consequences of it I reserve for another occasion.
SUMMARY OF SERMON III.
II PETER, CHAP. 1.-VERSE 1.
Of all Christian virtues, as there is none more approved by God, so there is none less considered or valued by men, than faith ; always attacked by the adversaries of our religion : but that it worthily deserves the praise and privileges assigned to it, we may be satisfied, if we consider well its nature and ingredients; its causes and rise; its effects and consequences : what has been said on the two former topics briefly recapitulated : the last only now insisted on at large.
Its effects are of two sorts; one springing naturally from it, the other following it in way of recompense from divine bounty. The first sort only touched on; because in this its virtue is most seen, as in the other its felicity.
Faith is naturally efficacious in producing many rare fruits, &c. Even in common life it is the compass by which men steer their practice, the main spring of all action. What but this moves the husbandman to take such pains in cultivating his ground ? &c. What but faith, eyeing the prize, quickens us to run patiently the race that is set before us ?
In reason a steady belief of one point or two only would suffice to engage us on all duty, and restrain us from all sin : instance of the future judgment and its results—the favor of Almighty God secured by a pious course of life—his wrath by vicious conduct : these points enlarged on. Such a general influence is faith (looking with provident eye on the future consequences of things) apt to have on our practice.
We are told that faith doth purify our souls, and cleanse
our hearts; that is, our whole interior man, all the faculties of the soul, &c. Add to your faith virtue, saith St. Paul ; implying the natural order of things.
The chief of all virtues, piety, seems according to reason inevitably consequent from it: this point enlarged on and explained.
After piety, the next great virtue is charity, the which also is easily derived from a pure heart, as St. Paul saith, and faith unfeigned; it representing particular obligations and inducements thereto, from the peremptory commands of God, the strict relations between Christians, and the stupendous patterns of charity set before us: this enlarged on.
In like manner is faith productive of meekness, in bearing injuries, neglects, and provocations of any kind : for who can entertain any long or rancorous grudge against bim whom he believeth his brother, and that on so many accounts he is obliged to love him? This shown.
Again, faith is the mother of sincerity, that comprehensive virtue which seasons all others and keeps them sound; for, as it assures us that an all-seeing eye views our very hearts, how vain must dissimulation appear to us ! &c.
Likewise the admirable virtue of humility sprouts up from faith, informing us that we have nothing of our own to boast of; &c.
It also engages us to the virtue of temperance, discovering not only the duty, but the necessity thereof, in regard to our state, which is one of continual exercise and strife; and every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Again, it produces contentedness in our state; for how can he, who is satisfied that God appoints him bis station, &c. be disconsolate or despair ?
It also begets a cheerful tranquillity of mind and peace of conscience, in regard to our future state ; which St. Paul calls all joy and peace in believing : &c.
Again, it is faith which breeds the courage, and upholds the patience requisite to support us in our spiritual course; for he who believes himself in his undertakings backed by Omnipotence, and that, as St. Paul, he can do all things through Christ strengthening him, what should he fear to undertake ! Armed with spiritual panoply we may face our most redoubtable enemies, the world, the flesh, the devil. With respect to patience, faith will also arm us with it, to endure all events with alacrity and comfort, lightening the most heavy burdens, and sweetening the most distasteful occurrences; persuading us that for any damage suffered here we shall hereafter become great gainers, receivers, as the gospel promises, a hundred fold, &c. This point enlarged on.
But it may perhaps be said ; These are indeed fine sayings, but where do such effects appear? who is found to act according to these notions ? To this objection, which is a shrewd one, it may be replied : You say where are such effects? where are such men? I ask then, where is faith? where are believers ? Show me the one, and I will show you the other. This point enlarged on.
To our infidelity therefore, to the insincerity, or deadness of our faith, the great defects of our practice are to be ascribed. But if such effects can now rarely be found, yet time was when they were more rife; scarce any time has been quite destitute of them : instances of the powerful effects of faith given; of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, David, of many judges and prophets in Israel ; but especially of the Apostles and primitive saints. This principle it was that enabled them to perform such prodigious acts, and to endure things so insupportable ; &c. A grain of faith, saith our Saviour, is able to remove mountains; that is, to accomplish things in appearance very strange and difficult. Concluding observations.